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Children of Separated Parents

Volume 471: debated on Monday 4 February 2008

10. What steps his Department is taking to provide relationship support and services to children of separated parents. (183688)

The children’s plan contains a commitment to improve support during and after family breakdown, including helping children to maintain contact with both parents. My Department promotes strong families and seeks to minimise the impact of breakdown on children. Families can access services via children’s centres and extended schools. We fund marriage and relationship support through grants, and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service—CAFCASS—safeguards and promotes the best interests of children in family court proceedings.

The Children’s Commissioner for England has said that the most important cause of unhappiness in children is the threat of family breakdown. Will the Government therefore look sympathetically at the family relationship centres in Australia, which have bipartisan support and help parents to reach agreement on post-separation parenting? They also do a lot to strengthen intact family relationships and marriages.

I know that the hon. Gentleman is very keen on the Australian model and that he has long taken an interest in that subject. I am sure that that has nothing to do with the fact that he had an Australian mother. The Legal Services Commission has recently finished piloting the family advice and information services, known as FAINS. These are aimed at encouraging the development of a more holistic approach, including clients working with their solicitors to develop a personal action plan to identify the actions that the client and other agencies will take, and the support that the client will need, in addition to that of a solicitor. So there is already a FAINS pilot in place, and we will evaluate it in the near future, perhaps before we go on to consider the hon. Gentleman’s preferred native solution.